Welcome to The Sprudge Twenty Interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2023 Sprudge Twenty honorees, please visit sprudge.com/twenty.

I nominate Devorah Freudiger, the Director of Coffee Culture at Equator Coffees. This August 2023, Devorah will celebrate her twelfth year with Equator. Before joining Equator, Devorah was the Director of Retail for Gimme in upstate New York. Devorah contacted me and asked to join Equator so she could learn wholesale under my mentorship. Devorah became our Wholesale Trainer and Coffee Educator. When we launched into retail in 2014, it was Devorah who led the charge. She was promoted to Director of Retail and opened Equator’s first eight retail stores.

Devorah’s contributions to industry our industry have been numerous, including co-founding the Bay Area Coffee Community, co-charing the Good Food Awards coffee panel, volunteering for years with the Specialty Coffee Association, and working on behalf of Equator as an employee advocate, sustainability advocate, mentor, teacher, and industry leader.

Devorah has been a shining light in our industry, showing what a career in specialty coffee can be, starting out as a Barista at Ritual to the Director of Coffee Culture. We have watched Devorah compete in barista competitions, mentor our folks internally and become a loving mother to two girls. I cannot imagine anyone else in our industry at this moment in time who is more deserving and who has blazed a path of what is possible in terms of career opportunities in our industry.

Nominated by Helen Russell

How long have you worked in coffee?

20 years.

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

I love the personal relationship that so many people have with coffee. You can sit down next to almost any random stranger and once you tell them you work in coffee they tell you all about how THEY drink coffee. It’s such an important part and meaningful part of most peoples days, but it looks different to everyone. People will tell you that they are an aficionado. That can mean they have a top of the line pour-over set up at home; they grind fresh, weigh their water and they are on a rotating single origin subscription. OR it can mean they only go out for coffee and only order flavored lattes. Both are valid ways to relate to coffee because they are meaningful and important to that person. I love digging into why people love the coffee they do.

What was your first coffee job?

My first job was as a barista! I wanted a low stakes when I moved to the Bay Area because I was only planning on staying for the summer. That was 20 years ago and I’m still in the Bay Area and still making coffee.

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What is your current role in coffee?

Director of Coffee Culture. I connect with new hires during their onboarding, I lead ongoing education classes, I taste with the coffee team and communicate with the marketing team. I’m able to do events and special projects. I have a catch all job where I get to evangelize the good word of coffee.

Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your life?

Two early coffee moments come to mind that really shaped my relationship with coffee.

The first was a simple moment with a regular at the first cafe I worked at. We were located in the Financial District of San Francisco and opened at 5 am for all the finance bros working on East Coast time. It was fast-paced and I thought the customer base was generally dismissive of those of us making their coffee. I knew the orders but didn’t know the names of the crush of men in blue shirts who came in for cappuccinos made with half and half (this was the era of Atkins). I had a customer pick up their drink, take a sip, look me directly in the eye and tell me so sincerely, “This is the best part of my day.” Then he walked off. I was left feeling so proud of my job, so appreciative of that little moment I was able to provide, and so sure that I wasn’t going to sacrifice happiness in my life to pursue a “traditionally successful” career path.

I also vividly remember my first cupping, it was that classic first taste of a natural moment. Ritual was about to open and we were undergoing training from the folks at Stumptown—Ritual was the first out of area account for them. We did a cupping and I remember the Ethiopian Harrar, that was as specific as single origins were at the time. That was my first “coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee” experience and I have loved recreating this moment during cuppings I’ve led.

What issue in coffee do you care about most? What cause or element in coffee drives you?

Sustainable business! First off coffee farming must be a sustainable and profitable business. If we want people to choose this livelihood, we have to keep paying more for coffee and supporting programs that increase the yield of good quality coffee. On the roaster/retailer side I do believe that businesses can make a profit without exploiting the environment or their workforce. I have loved digging into conscious capitalism/triple bottom line economics and I’m so proud that Equator is a part of the B-Corp community. I believe it is possible to do good while working with the framework of capitalism.

Do you often make coffee at home? If so, tell us how you brew!

I have a magic coffee brewer that somehow has fresh coffee in it every morning! Meaning, my husband wakes up before me and I’m so spoiled.

So my first cup is brewed by Marcus via our Breville Precision brewer, I love this brewer and recommend it to everyone looking for an automatic coffee maker. My second (and third and forth) cup of the day is usually via some type of pour-over. We have many at home (Origami, V60, Wave, Chemex, Fellow) and I like playing with all of them. I also like different coffees at different times of the day, that first cup is often less complicated. In the morning I want a clean coffee that doesn’t ask too much to me. That later pour-over cup is where I want fruit and complex flavors.

What is your favorite song to brew coffee to?

This is tricky! I have a loud brain, so if there isn’t actually something playing I’m probably singing two song snippets at the same time. I listen to a lot of musicals, maybe I should try being more intentional and play music to affect the mood of the coffee? I’ll bet Little Shop of Horrors would make for some tasty coffee.

What is your idea of coffee happiness?

Coffee is sharing a moment with people. I’m so happy going out to coffee with people I love, a cafe visit is an important part of a day out with my kid or when I’m spending time with friends. I love brewing for people! Sharing a cup of something I’ve helped make is so rewarding. I am so happy when I get to to make a Chemex or pour little macchiatos in the afternoon for our team working in the roastery.

Who inspires you in the world of coffee?

I’m inspired by people who take risks and do work to make coffee better for more people! Helen, Brooke and Maureen, of course, for building such an incredible place to work and proving that business can be a force for good! We have so many incredible entrepreneurs in the bay area, Eileen Hassi at Ritual and Trish Rothgeb at Wrecking Ball have both impacted the coffee roasting industry immeasurably. Phyllis Johnson is creating a more inclusive coffee industry. Kimberly Easson is making the world more equitable for so many women farming coffee. I was lucky enough to meet Erna Knutsen a couple times before she passed, she was such an incredible woman and we are all standing on her shoulders.

If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to share a pot of coffee with Dolly Parton. I think she is an incredible example of how to be successful while lifting up everyone in her vicinity. Her joy, lust for life, and acceptance of all people feel infectious even through a screen, I can’t imagine what it’s like in person!

Thank you.

The Sprudge Twenty interview series is presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of Sprudge Twenty honorees, please visit sprudge.com/twenty